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Why Do We Wander? | D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

Eliezer Weinbach – Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center, Hazon  Parshat Maasei Earlier this year, Isabella Freedman hosted a Moishe House retreat called “Wandering Jews.” Led by New York Times contributor Eli Reiter, twelve people in their twenties and thirties got together to discuss their experiences and wisdom regarding travel as a Jewish person. They discussed things like kashruth and shabbat observance while abroad. The question is: Why bother? When the Torah lists all the stages of the journey through the desert, as per the text from Numbers above, it really does discuss each part. All forty-two stages, in fact! The question is: Why bother? God commands that when the Jews do finally enter the land, they are to travel three times a year to Jerusalem. Wasn’t the journey to the land long enough?! Why bother?! Travel is hard. Sitting at home is easy. Hiking is hard. Watching Netflix is easy. Adventures change you. Inaction keeps you the same. Wandering is change. On a very basic level, you are moving from one place to another. But it’s so much more than that. I could quote Emerson on “roads less traveled” or Kerouac on basically anything, or any of the myriad formulations regarding […]

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Mayim Chayim and Honoring our Mother | D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

Alex Voynow – Jewish Farm School  Parshat Chukat In Chukat, our mother dies. “Miriam died there [at Kadesh] and was buried there. The people were without water and they joined against Moses and Aaron.” ~Numbers 20.1-2 Miriam’s death gets one line, and then the narrative is quickly redirected back to the patriarchs. I was amazed at the amount of lines the Torah takes in Chukat to explicate the condemnation of Moses, the laws or ritual purification, and the military proceedings of the Israelites, while one verse is all we hear about the death of Miriam the Prophetess. Miriam provided the water. And just as in the central focus of the movement at Standing Rock, “Water is Life.” Mayim chayim. If you say mayim repeatedly, you also begin to say ima — mother. In the Torah, we lost our mother Miriam, our life source. She is barely mentioned again. So, the central question for me and for us that comes up is: whose story is this? Who wrote this book? There is an obvious reality that women were centrally important to the life and culture of the Israelites, yet they are seldom mentioned, celebrated, or mourned. I see this as the Torah’s infidelity […]

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Korach: Disruptive Visionary or Disgruntled Rabble-Rouser? | D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

Eliezer Weinbach – Hazon, Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center Parshat Korach וַיֵּרְדוּ הֵם וְכָל-אֲשֶׁר לָהֶם, חַיִּים–שְׁאֹלָה And they and all their belongings went down, alive, into Sheol Numbers 16:33 I was traveling once, and my tour guide, a wizened Arab, asked me if I wanted to see the pit that swallowed Korach’s followers. Intrigued, I followed my guide through the desert. After some time, through a haze of heat and mirage, we saw smoke billowing from a fissure in the ground. My guide doused a towel with some of his water, and tied it to the tip of his staff. He cautiously approached the fissure, and held his staff over the smoking vent. To my surprise, the wet cloth began to burn. As he was walking back to me, I could hear voices carried on the warm desert wind. Faint voices, singing, or perhaps chanting. Softly enough that I wasn’t sure if I was hearing anything at all. “What are those voices?” I asked my guide. “Those are the children of Korach,” he replied. “They are slowly lowered into the hellish heat of the Earth and then raised back out, rotated like a roast on a spit. When they finish […]

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Old Stones, New Ripples – Reflections on the Close of JOFEE Fellowship Cohort 1 | D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

by Yoshi Silverstein – JOFEE Fellowship Director May 18th, 2017 | 22nd Iyar 5777 | 37th day of the omer | gevurah she’b’yesod 16 Organizations. 17 Fellows. Over 500 programs. An estimated 37,000 participants in Jewish Outdoor, Food, Farming & Environmental Education (JOFEE) programs across the country. These are some of the incredible numbers emerging as we look back at our first JOFEE Fellowship cohort, who completed their closing seminar and siyum last week at our sister JOFEE organization, the Pearlstone Center outside Baltimore, MD. Behind those numbers are thousands of people encountering – many for the first time – the incredible power of a Jewish tradition steeped in deep cultural and spiritual connection with the earth, with place, with human communities and our surrounding ecosystems, with our food, and with each other.  A Jewish tradition that recognizes both the limits and abundance of the resources our home planet provides for us. A tradition that says this world is amazing – there is so much magnificence – and yet we have work to do – not to complete by ourselves, but neither to desist from doing our part. And wow did our JOFEE Fellows do their part! Here are a […]

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The day after the election

From Nigel Savage I had a very strange day today: I rode out of Jerusalem, on the first day of our Israel Ride, with our largest ever group of participants, on a beautiful day. The day went smoothly and easily. The sun shone – but not too much. No accidents. Our crew – Israeli, Palestinian, Jordanian, and American alumni of the Arava Institute – were amazing. They’re an inspiration to everyone who spends time with them. They give of themselves in all sorts of ways because they believe that when people engage across difference they can create a better world for all. So: a wonderful day. And somewhere between our ride launch and our first rest stop, it was confirmed that Donald Trump would be the next president of the United States. As you know, we’re a non-profit, and we don’t endorse candidates for office. But I wanted to say a few words to everyone. First: there are many thousands of people on this list, so by definition there must be some of you who are delighted at the outcome of the election. To you I send congratulations and mazal tov. Those of you who did not vote for Donald […]

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To See and Be Seen – D’Varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

Liora Lebowitz, Jewish Farm School – Philadelphia, PA Parashat V’zot Haberachah + Sukkot & Simchat Torah Editor’s Note: Welcome to D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog! Most weeks throughout the year, you’ll be hearing from the JOFEE Fellows: reflections on their experiences, successful programs they’ve planned and implemented, gleanings from the field, and connections to the weekly Torah portion and what they’ve learned from their experiences with place in their host communities for the year. Views expressed are the author’s and do not necessarily represent Hazon. Be sure to check back weekly!  P.S. Interested in being or hosting a JOFEE Fellow? Applications for cohort two are now open for both prospective fellows and prospective host institutions! Priority Deadline is October 31! Together with the holiday of Simchat Torah, V’zot Haberacha, the final parsha of the Torah, marks the transition from the end of a cycle to beginning anew. From beginning to end, the readings of Torah follow the Jewish calendar, and there are strong parallels between the cycle of the Jewish calendar and the corresponding seasonal and agricultural cycles of the year. During Simchat Torah, we ready ourselves to read the final parsha of the Torah – to celebrate our accumulated knowledge and […]

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Listen and Gather: Jewish Rain Makers – D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

Jessica Berlin, Hazon: Transformative Experiences, Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center – Falls Village, CT Sukkot and Parashat Ha’azinu Editor’s Note: Welcome to D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog! Most weeks throughout the year, you’ll be hearing from the JOFEE Fellows: reflections on their experiences, successful programs they’ve planned and implemented, gleanings from the field, and connections to the weekly Torah portion and what they’ve learned from their experiences with place in their host communities for the year. Views expressed are the author’s and do not necessarily represent Hazon. Be sure to check back weekly!  P.S. Interested in being or hosting a JOFEE Fellow? Applications for cohort two are now open for both prospective fellows and prospective host institutions!  On a hot summer day in late August, I led a group of young adults on a tour of the Adamah farm on BeeBee Hill at Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center. The inscription above the gateway, “And God saw that it was good,” reminds us of a classic JOFEE interpretation of the Genesis creation story: that the interdependent relationships found in nature are fundamentally good; and that by emulating these relationships, humans can learn to create more sustainable relationships with one another and the land. We […]

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Open your heart, Open your hand – D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

Becky Adelberg, JCC Chicago Parshat Re’eh Editor’s Note: Welcome to D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog! This is our inaugural post. Most weeks throughout the year, you’ll be hearing from the JOFEE Fellows: reflections on their experiences, successful programs they’ve planned and implemented, gleanings from the field, and connections to the weekly Torah portion and what they’ve learned from their experiences with place in their host communities for the year. Be sure to check back weekly! PS Interested in being or hosting a JOFEE Fellow? Applications for cohort two are now open for both prospective fellows and prospective host institutions! And now, on to Becky’s post …  I’m thrilled for this opportunity to write about one of my favorite events of the year: Shabbat on the Lake. To me, Shabbat on the Lake is more than an event. It is a mindset, a movement, a gathering of all corners of the Jewish community;  it’s a tapestry of various affiliations, ways of engaging with Judaism and the possibility of a Jewish community who focuses on things that unite us as opposed to what divides us. Shabbat on the Lake’s inception at JCC Chicago arose six years ago to show young Jewish adults various ways […]

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Because Sometimes it Rains on Your Sukkah

Geshem Be’ito (Acceptance of Rain in Its Time) The following essay will be published in the forthcoming book of teachings “Good Noticing” published by the Institute for Jewish Spirituality. The rhythms of the Jewish calendar may not coincide with your particular climate. At times, our traditional rituals may range from the impractical to the impossible. For example, in the Northern Hemisphere, calling upon light in the darkness of Chanukah in Kislev/December always resonates, but singing about blossoming trees in Shevat/January may not make sense. How can we stay true to our tradition when the weather doesn’t cooperate? And as mindfulness practitioners, how might we elevate the news of undesirable weather? Those of us who live in the Northeastern United States are usually blessed with bountiful precipitation year-round. Furthermore, our religion is no longer based on the careful balance between following God’s laws and receiving in return enough rain for our crops to survive. The Reform movement even removed the second paragraph of the Shema from prayer books to make the bold statement: we are modern Jews—we do not believe that we can influence God to change the weather by keeping the commandments of our tradition. Recent evidence suggests that even […]

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Is Hazon Local or National? Yes.

I’m fascinated by photos from the Mars Rover. Of course, we could see photos of Mars, the whole red planet, for years, but I didn’t start to feel I had a sense of what the planet was like until I started seeing pictures from the ground level. And, of course, I keep hoping one of these times we’re going to see a Martian waiving “hello.” The action, should there be any, will most certainly happen at the local level. I’m often asked, following the merger between Hazon and Isabella Freedman: “Just what is the new Hazon? Is it a national organization? Is it a local organization?” And the genuine answer is: “Both.” Hazon is a national organization. We look to build a healthier and more sustainable world throughout the United States and beyond. But that work stems from creating healthier and more sustainable Jewish communities built of individuals, families, congregations, and organizations, and that – almost by definition – happens at the local level. Just this month: I attended a one-day Philadelphia Hazon Bike Ride with 200 participants and crew. Our San Francisco Bay Area office held its 5th annual multi-day Bike Ride on the heels of a successful one-day […]

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